Sprint to the Finish

With last weekend's back-to-back-to-back in the rear view mirror, the Hawks have only 16 games remaining in the regular season. The race for home court advantage in the Eastern Conference is shaping up to be a dog fight, with multiple teams still in contention.

First, let us be clear about how home court advantage works in the NBA playoffs, as this year's standings have the potential for a unique outcome.

The first four seeds in each conference will be given to the three division winners and the team with the next best regular season record, but these four teams will be seeded in order of their regular season records. The remaining four playoff berths for each conference will be based on regular season records with no regard to divisional alignment. Home court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs will be based solely on regular season record, not playoff seeding, thus a divisional winner that has a higher playoff seed than an opponent will not necessarily have home court advantage in the playoff series.

This is relevant for this season, because there is a possibility that the winner of the Atlantic Division (currently led by the Sixers) may not finish with one of the top four records in the Eastern Conference.

With Chicago and Miami having separated from the rest of the pack, there are two spots up for grabs that will own home court advantage in the first round.

"We understand the significance of each game, and where we're at right now in the Eastern Conference," Joe Johnson recently commented. "If we want to move up we got to act like it."

Here is a quick overview of the remaining schedule for each team fighting for playoff position in the East:

numbers

Some key takeaways:

  • Boston appears to have a tough road ahead, with over half of their remaining games on the road, six pairs of back-to-backs, and match-ups with the Spurs, Bulls and Heat (twice).
  • Philly plays less than half of their remaining games against teams that are still in the playoff hunt, but they are on the road quite a bit.
  • The Hawks and Magic may (marginally) have easier finishing schedules, which could place even more emphasis on their head-to-head match-up in Orlando on April 13.

Always one to downplay paying attention to standings, Coach Drew is focused on simply getting the Hawks playing their best basketball as they prepare for the postseason.

"So far I've basically blocked it out," Drew commented. "It can change day-by-day. We don't put a lot of focus on where we as far as our playoff spot is concerned. As we move further down the line we'll start paying a little bit more attention to it."

That is spoken like a true coach, but that doesn't mean that, as fans, we can't dig and analyze every aspect of the race to homecourt advantage.